Growth sectors to watch in 2021

As we enter 2021, still confronted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020, the biggest challenge for the progressive-minded is to identify possible growth sectors. This is important given that 2021 seems to be a continuation of 2020 if not worse. Global markets are yet to recover from the effects of strict lockdown measures implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, there are now more and stricter lockdowns, leaving limited space for traditional trading sectors to recover despite some sectors like outdoor advertising in Latam and rest of the world performing fairly well.

Tapiwa Gomo

For most traditional industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has spelt doom and there are some sectors that continue to provide opportunities for growth.

As the saying goes, “in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” Identifying these opportunities depends on how one is positioned, their ability to see and think outside the box.

This is not underestimating that lockdowns and COVID-19 have caused more suffering and in some areas irreparable damage to society.

The pandemic has fundamentally altered how people live, work, learn and trade. And these, too, have informed how business is conducted. Again, unlike most people who held back their plans hoping for economic recovery from the political plunge in 2000, it is important to treat the COVID-19 situation as a new normal or situation that will not end anytime soon.

With stricter lockdowns, most families remain stuck in their homes until the situation improves. Most parents are working from home while children attend virtual classes. For these reasons, online retail business has continued to grow creating new opportunities for traditional businesses and other services.

Online shopping for household goods and services, including fastfood has become an emerging industry. Globally, on-line sales grew to $3,53 trillion in 2020 and are expected to reach $6,54 trillion by 2022.

To tap on to this opportunity requires that businesses embrace an e-commerce culture as the way of conducting business, the same way churches did in 2020.

Linked to this phenomenon is the telecommunications industry. While the internet industry has been on a positive trajectory, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated why an efficient telecommunications system is a necessary lifeline and why governments should make internet accessible to everyone.

With most people confined to their homes, the only way to reach them and for them to be in touch with the world is via internet.

This has created a major boom in the telecommunications industry. In 2021, this will continue on an upward trend as the option to work or study from home will remain until the COVID-19 pandemic slows down. Industries to watch in this sector include supply of efficient connectivity, affordable data, gadgets that are compliant to latest online platforms.

To reap the benefits of these, players in the telecommunications industry need to improve their focus on customer needs and be able to reposition to monetise advances in technology. But this is not all.

There are major changes happening in the digital landscape such as the growth in 5G technology and artificial intelligence which will alter how people do business.

Online education is a potential growth sector as well. It is already projected that online after-school tutoring market will grow by 30% to 40% as students try to catch up on what they missed during virtual lessons.

It is an opportunity for teachers to go private, monetise their trade and get value for their knowledge. All one needs is to bring together teachers specialising in various subjects, a timetable for each grade or form, a computer, connectivity and conferencing applications to establish a virtual after-school.

While our local arts and music industries have been crying over poor revenue due to the rise in popularity of Mp3 players, music piracy, internet radio and online streaming and in addition the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on live events, there has been steady growth in that sector in countries such as the United States of America and even outdoor advertising in Latam and rest of the world .

Revenue is projected to steadily increase as artistes better adapt to the internet era — and this includes monetising their musical products and holding pay-per-view virtual events. Lockdowns have also slowed down piracy, mainly in Africa where music is still sold on compact discs. To survive in 2021, players in this industry need to embrace the benefits of social media realising that most people access information via their phones. Advertisers are aware that they can now reach more people via local media content on social media platforms which is more affordable. The power is now in artistes’ hands.

With everything going virtual, it is no surprise that cyber security is among the fastest growing sectors. Recent estimates suggest that cyber security globally will grow by $50 billion by the end of 2021. The online work and study from home modality means that the risks of malicious cyber-attacks will rise. Both parents and children will now need to ensure data protection and digital security. For players in this sector, opportunities span beyond antivirus software to also include data backup services given the accelerated growth in the sector.

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